Brianne Gidcumb | February 2016

Driving Questions for Arts-Based Inquiry: Creating

One of the easiest ways to connect the arts naturally with project-based learning is through creating.  There’s a whole strand dedicated to creating in the National Core Arts Standards, and each standard provides a truly authentic way to explore inquiry-based learning.  Let’s dive into these three anchor standards, the essential questions associated with them, and take a look at some driving questions that might help you craft a arts-based project-based learning experience.

In today’s Driving Questions in the Arts download, you’ll find a chart of the essential questions for standards 1 through 3 in each arts area. You will also find a chart of project “seeds” based on a driving question in each arts area.  Rather than dividing these into each of the three standards, you’ll find one seed per arts area, as you’ll find that many of the essential questions are steps in the creative process.

Driving Questions Creating Anchor

The first three anchor standards of the NCAS, those in the creating strand, are as follows:

Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

The creating strand is so closely aligned with the processes of inquiry and design that this is a really natural place to begin connecting the arts into project-based learning in the general classroom or to create a project-based learning in the arts classroom. These processes all contain the same general steps of generating an idea, making a plan, creating something, revising it, and presenting your work. You can see the alignment and the similarities in processes in the Aligning Processes Graphic, available for download.

The National Core Arts Standards have essential questions built right into each anchor standard that have been developed for each arts area. This is the perfect place to begin crafting a driving question based in an arts standard. Some of these questions might be inherently part of the PBL process.

For example, when engaged in a visual arts-based PBL, one of the essential questions for Standard 2 is “How do artists and designers learn from trial and error?” Students will address that essential question through a process of revision in the creation of their projects.

Others might be the basis for a more specific driving question. For example, again, in Standard 2 for visual art, another essential question is, “How do artists and designers create works of art or design that effectively communicate?” This might be the foundation for a more focused driving question, asking student artists to create a work of art designed to effectively communicate a particular message.

Good luck, and please feel free to comment below with any examples of driving questions in creating arts-based projects that you’ve used in your classroom!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: